Beyond the Bike 2015/16 - Bamboo with a View.
Beyond the Bike's latest adventure is publishing an illustrated book for children aged 5-9, joining forces with illustrator Tim, another teacher and tandem cyclist. The Adventures of Thandie the Tandem is available to buy (from this website) from June 2018. There are more stories to tell and so look out for more Thandie books coming soon.
We got back to the UK on a very cold and grey day, a few days later we had Brexit and all the ensuing madness - a political revolution in London, or just more of the same on (super) fast-forward? Stuart's blog from a year ago as we left London proved remarkably prescient when predicting a 'bloodbath in the corridors of Westmister'. We were starting to wonder why we had bothered to come back to England, so to take our minds off things we got back on our bikes and made sure we cycled over 11,000km (as we had reached 10,000km in Hong Kong).
Two final rides. Two final cities. Three very different bikes. In Hong Kong we cycled past our 10,000km target accompanied by a motley collection of bikes and friends. At the end of June we finally made it to Shanghai. We are now back in the UK, which really has not yet sunk in and we are NOT enjoying the English weather!
As Deng Xiapeng and Mao Ze Dong both said 'One country, two systems'. Although they were talking about Macau/Hong Kong's relationship with the mainland, we saw this to be true in so many different ways. It is quite fitting that our final African country was one of huge (probably more well known) contrasts; geographic, ethnic and economic. Our final Asian country and of the entire journey (or the small part of the enormous country we have seen) really is also one of startling contrasts. Our first month was spent in the South of this huge country, travelling through the provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong en route to Hong Kong.
We rushed through Laos (covering the entire country from southernmost to northenmost border in three weeks, cycling around 800km and 'cheating' on two buses. Despite our speedy journey, the affectionate version of PDR (People's Democratic Republic) was ever so true as we found out very quickly (if that is not a paradox!). In fact, we were told the same joke we had been told in several African countries - 'In the west you have the watches but in Laos (or Africa) we have the time.' Laos is one of the most relaxed countries we have visited with plenty of cyclists. Despite its hilliness (sometimes 20% climbs), we really enjoyed our time there - on a few of its 4000 southern islands, in the Mekongside villages and in its two main cities. The only time it was totally crazy was during Pi Mai or New Year.
We saw three different sides to the smallest country in our Asian odyssey (except Singapore). Firstly, the incredible ruins of the powerful Angkorian Empire that dominated the region 1000 years ago. Secondly, the memorials and stories of the terrible Pol Pot regime only 40 years ago. Finally, a country trying to rebuild itself, trying to escape its recent past and its more powerful neighbours. Our group ride with United World Schools (UWS) really demonstrated how Cambodia is being rebuilt, slowly but surely. Our week with UWS yet again humbled us and made us realise how lucky we are and how important the work they and Beyond Ourselves (in Zambia) is doing.